The Washington Post comments on the Bradley Manning verdict:
As a newspaper, The Post thrives on revelatory journalism and often benefits from leaks, sometimes inspired by dissent and other times by spin. The Web site WikiLeaks, which published the raw material provided by Mr. Manning as well as other secrets, differs from journalism in methods if not goals. The Post and many others in print and broadcast journalism sift and check information and take care not to reveal sources and methods or to endanger lives in bringing secrets to light. WikiLeaks and Pfc. Manning showed less care. They spilled classified government data into the open, in some cases endangering individuals who were identified in diplomatic cables. Pfc. Manning had taken an oath to protect secrets, which he broke. No system of secrecy can function if people ignore the rules with impunity; it is reasonable that Pfc. Manning be punished in some way for breaking those rules.

However, the Manning verdict casts light once again on the fact that far too much information is classified. The Public Interest Declassification Board concluded last year that classification practices are “outmoded, unsustainable and keep too much information from the public.” Too many people can slap “top secret” on a document with too little justification for doing so. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, writing in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, concludes that existing principles for determining what should be secret are far too broad, especially in national security, giving officials “all but unlimited discretion” to classify as they see fit.

USA Today analyzes Edward Snowden and his asylum in Russia:
[N]one of the leaker's antics diminishes the importance of the debate he started about government spying on Americans or the healthy turn that debate has taken. [...] Snowden, who set off this debate, is in many ways now a sideshow. As he starts his new life in Russia, addressing the issues he revealed is the main event.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Goltein at The Christian Science Monitor tries to reconcile polling on the NSA with the "alarming scope of NSA data collection":
Yes, a secret court approved these programs. That should not start and end the discussion about their legality. Judges make mistakes, and – as recent reporting on the secret Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA) Court has underscored – they are far more likely to do so when they hear only the facts and arguments that one side chooses to present. When citizens have gone to the regular courts to challenge government surveillance, the government has successfully argued that the courts cannot even consider their claims. [...]

The programs also threaten Americans’ privacy. It is disingenuous for officials to characterize the “metadata” being collected as mere phone numbers. Sophisticated computer programs can glean volumes of sensitive information from this metadata about people’s relationships, activities, and even beliefs. The government knows very well how revealing call records can be; that is why it considers the program so valuable.

Head below the fold for more on the day's top stories.

The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson examines how the Republican Party has truly gone off the deep end:

It’s not your imagination. The Republican Party really does seem to have taken leave of its senses. [...] Unable to control his unruly majority, Boehner has essentially given up; judge the House not on how many laws it passes, he said recently, but how many it repeals. Even by that standard, of course, this Congress is strikingly unproductive, since all those votes to repeal Obamacare have done nothing except waste everybody’s time.

At this point, Republicans won’t even support their own ideas. For years, the party has complained that corporate tax rates are so high they discourage job creation. So what was the reaction when Obama proposed lowering those corporate tax rates? House leaders immediately signaled that they were not interested.

Ruth Marcus also highlights Republican antics, with a focus on the transportation bill debacle:
The most telling thing that happened as Congress scrambled to get out of town for its August recess was the vote that didn’t happen.

On Wednesday, House Republican leaders abruptly yanked a $44 billion transportation spending bill from floor debate. The purported reason was scheduling — a pile of proposed amendments that supposedly made it difficult to finish up in time.

In fact, lawmakers had already disposed of most of that pile. The more plausible reason: The votes weren’t there. The bill cut too much, even for many Republicans to stomach — despite the fact that they had passed a budget requiring cuts of that size. When it came time to put their mouths (and votes) where the money wasn’t, lawmakers balked. [...] The lesson here is that it’s easy to spout grand pronouncements about reining in runaway spending, far harder to choose precisely what to slash, especially after several lean years.

Stephen Berman at The Denver Post highlights the issue of our nation's poor children and raises a call for action:
[T]he greatest threat to the future of our country is receiving almost no attention in the media or halls of Congress: our growing rate of child poverty. One in five children lives below the federal poverty level in the United States and almost one in two are poor or near poor. [...] Our country cannot afford the future burden of child poverty. While the present situation is bleak, we can reduce the growth in child poverty and ameliorate its present and future burden on our society.

Child poverty has known effective policy solutions. The approach should target three areas. First, raise families out of poverty by raising the minimum wage, improving the Child Tax Credit, and strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit. Our current tax policy provides more tax benefits and breaks to the wealthy (like hedge fund managers) and politically powerful corporations than hard working poor and middle-class families.

Second, provide high quality early childhood programs and high quality affordable child care to poor families. All 3- and 4-year-old poor and near poor children should attend Head Start and Early Head Start.

Third, support neighborhood revitalization initiatives called “place-based” initiatives.

While deficit reduction is important, we need a balanced approach that protects poor children and low income families.

There aren't enough female analysts on television, and the field of female media critics is even thinner. Erik Wemple says it's high time for a female media critic to take the lead at CNN:
The lack of diversity among the fill-in crew at “Reliable Sources” makes sense on one level. Media/TV criticism has its share of guys, after all — from the Carrs and the Shaferses to the Byerses and the Folkenfliks to the Kurtzes and the Degganses. (Disclosure: The Erik Wemple Blog is a white male). But who says the next “Reliable Sources” host needs to have spent years slinging blog posts and columns on paywalls, ethics, conflicts of interest and cable-news-anchor hirings?

What, for instance, is keeping CNN from screen-testing a talent like Karen Tumulty, the veteran Washington Post political reporter? Doesn’t she know something about the media? Ditto for Politico’s Maggie Haberman, the sine qua non of Politico’s excellent video coverage of the 2012 presidential election. While we’re in Rosslyn, doesn’t Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown present herself pretty well on television? Wanna stir things up? Then poach Kirsten Powers from Fox News — she’ll shout down those who would excuse media bias. Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC has been known to carry a discussion or two on various topics. And hey, what’s wrong with Molly Ball of The Atlantic? Get a mic on that woman! The New York Times’s Amy Chozick — didn’t she do an okay job of covering the media?

Over at NPR, John Burnett takes a fascinating look at humanists and asks whether a humanist can become a chaplain?
Heap is applying to become the first humanist chaplain with the U.S. Navy. These chaplains are also assigned to the pastoral care of Marines. But this leads to the inevitable question: What would you do, on the eve of battle, if a grunt asked you to pray with him?

"As a pastoral caregiver, I wouldn't lead a prayer with that particular person, but I would help them with it," Heap says. "Having come from the background of Christians, I would understand what sort of things to help the person speak about. I am very familiar with the Bible as a scholar. If they are a humanist or an atheist, even Wiccan or pagan, it would be on the sort of terms where I would be able to work more with them philosophically."

Harvard, Stanford and three other universities have humanist chaplains. So does the Dutch army. But the idea of a nonbelieving chaplain in the U.S. military has provoked a backlash.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment to a Pentagon spending bill instructing the armed forces to only allow religious organizations that believe in a higher power to endorse chaplains. And so far, the Navy has not indicated whether it will accept the Humanist Society as the endorser of Jason Heap.

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